Dr Lundy English IV APDecember 10, 2015The Garden And The CaveBoccaccio’s “The Decameron” tells the story of a possessive king Tancred, princess Ghismonda and her forbidden lover. Her lover is exposed when her overprotective father follows her through the castle garden into an ivy and weed covered cave that houses a secret passageway to Ghismonda’s room. Symbolism is heavily carried throughout the story, and is prevalent in the tandem usage of the garden and the cave. The garden represents Ghismonda around her father: pristine, manicured, and maintained.
The Cave signifies Ghismonda’s desires when she is alone: raw, unkempt, and unrestrained. Tancred’s relationship with Ghismonda, upon closer inspection, holds an uneven balance of power. Tancred is unwilling to let his daughter marry, but finally succumbs when he meets a foreign prince and gives her away. The prince, however dies soon after they wed, and to Tancred’s delight, Ghismonda returns home. After she returns, he is even more reluctant to marry her off, and instead of seeking to fulfill her desires, she awaits for her father’s approval. The storyteller does not directly address where Tancred’s wife has gone, but Ghismonda is the only evident object of Tancred’s affection, which may play a large role in Tancred’s reluctance to part with his daughter.
Ghismonda seems to become more and more aware of the inappropriate undertones of her father’s feelings towards her, telling her father You, following more the common opinion than the truth, more bitterly admonish me, saying that I have chosen a man of low condition, almost as if you would not have been vexed had I chosen a nobleman. (Boccacio)She is finally standing up to her father, and calling him out on his inappropriate- if not vaguely incestuous- passions for his daughter when he confronts her about his knowledge of her affair with Guiscardo. This is a big moment for Ghismonda, as she is stepping out of the cetof rules that society during that time has dictated appropriate for the daughter of the household.
Knowledge of the expectations set forth for the women and daughters in the household allow us to understand a deeper layer of why Ghismonda responds to her father in the manner that she does. Women did not have much say in their lives at this point in time, and children were at the bottom of the social caste within the household. The father held the power, and his word was law. This pressure from society conflicted with her natural desires as she grows older.
Ghismonda, as a child, had a set mold of what was expected of her. Much like a garden, she was expected to be neat, immaculate and impeccable. Free of weeds, free of pests, and free of vermin. Her needs and desires to grow were stifled, trimmed and pruned by the too-scrutinizing eyes of her father just like the unruly buds of a flower are snipped by a groundskeeper.
She feels was not allowed to explore herself, since her father had not given her away. She’s had to conceal who she is in an attempt to be the good daughter to her father and repress her individual desires for a relationship. She withholds speaking to her father about marrying her, seeing it as “immodest of her to solicit him in any such suit (Boccacio)”.